Saad Jashim, Head of Human Resources at BAT Bangladesh, in a conversation talks about managing one of the biggest workforces in Bangladesh and how they are adapting to the 21st century demand of future-fit young leaders to create the best talent pipeline of the country.
The conversation follows below:
BAT Bangladesh has been acclaimed for its diverse and inclusive work culture. Given that diversity is currently one of the most talked-about topics, could you share with us how BAT Bangladesh created such an exemplary working environment?
Saad Jashim: It’s great to hear that Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) is such a widely discussed topic at the moment. For us at BAT Bangladesh, D&I is more than just a current buzz word, it has been at the core of what we do, for over a decade now. Our culture of nurturing our employees in an environment where we respect and celebrate each other’s differences lies in the belief that our diverse talent is our biggest asset and our best brand. And a testament to our consistent effort in this arena is accreditations like the Top Employer Award or the Global Equality Standard (GES) Certification we proudly received in 2021. Diversity to us is not limited to just gender diversity, but also includes diversity of thought . From grooming female STEM talent via Supernova, mentoring platforms like inspirit and bringing in cross-industry professional recruits, we leave no stone unturned to ensure that our workforce is composed of diverse pool of perspectives and connected to diversity is inclusion. Our policies and opportunities are consciously designed to be inclusive and fair. In fact, we are proud to say that even international learning exposure is not just limited to BAT managers, but high-performing factory employees also get the opportunity to travel different countries to take part in trainings. We firmly believe that workplace culture is a product of the whole organization meaning that the onus lies with everyone to act in an inclusive manner. Year on year, keeping our core consistent, we ensure that this inclusive ecosystem evolves to help our employees feel empowered and inspired to keep growing.
One of the most lucrative programs for young grads of Bangladesh is BAT’s Global Graduate program, can you elaborate how it has been designed to promote fat-paced growth?
Saad Jashim: At BAT Bangladesh, we are evolving at a pace that’s unlike any other organization. The Global Graduate (GG) Program is our flagship 18-months management trainee role for high potential fresh graduates and young professionals to get a fast-tracked career. The aim of the program is to raise future leaders of BAT by grooming them in a stretched and exciting environment from day one. The program is carefully designed, with functional and cross-functional roles, to prepare and instill our purpose-led ethos in our young leaders from day 1. GGs also get the opportunity to take part in BAT Grad Academy to build a network with other GGs from different parts of the BAT world. The concept is to develop a well-rounded and inclusive business leader who is prepared to take on strategic deliverables on broad streams of our business.
Beyond fast-paced growth, how do you think BAT’s Global Graduate program is designed to groom young leaders to be future-fit and socially conscious?
Saad Jashim: The core purpose of this interesting program is to shape leaders of tomorrow to become competent and inclusive business leaders. At the core of our dynamic business ecosystem is our farmer community in Kushtia and via our recent collaboration with Prerona Foundation, we rolled out three community development projects there. To foster a sense of inclusion, we are sending our GGs for a 15-days immersive Fellowship experience with these farmer communities.
This initiative named, Be the Change Fellowship Program is a way for our GGs to take a step closer to their North Star. Our GGs participate in the community development projects by living with and like the families of our farmer beneficiary community to gain first-hand experience of a reality that is different from their own. By exposing them to the grassroots of our business, we hope to help them grow as empathetic leaders.
This Fellowship seems like an interesting new initiative, could you elaborate what the GGs are doing daily during this 15-days immersive program?
Saad Jashim: I believe that the youth now are more conscious and look for purpose in everything they do. They are the shapers of tomorrow and being purpose-led is what sets this generation apart. The Be the Change Fellowship was created to anchor our GGs and help them find their North Star, perhaps delving into the daily acts will help to clarify.
On a day-to-day basis, the two-weeks immersive experience allows them to work with marginalized communities under the three community development projects – Education, Empowerment and Youth Leadership. Under each project, there are courses taught to beneficiaries and their families by experts of the field. For example, under the education pillar there is the Adult Literacy center where aged farmers, who never got the opportunity to avail formal education, learn basics like writing and mathematics. Living with these farmers, learning their stories, and even teaching them helps groom these young leaders into future-fit leaders of tomorrow.
As we know, Bangladesh is progressing towards its Vision 2041 and BAT Bangladesh plans to run major initiatives on youth employment and inclusion. What is your view on the need to invest on future-fit youth leaders?
Saad Jashim: As a fast-developing economy, Bangladesh needs to increase the pace at which we are developing talent. The country needs high-quality talent to meet its increasing demand in a very competitive global economy and this is a challenge that needs strategic partnership across government, academia, and employers to ensure that together we develop the human capital of the country. BAT Bangladesh, as a proud development partner to the Government of Bangladesh, has already launched several key projects to address the needs of Bangladeshi youth. As an organization, we take pride in spearheading such initiatives and we will accelerate our efforts in the coming years to create next generation leaders.